Entrepreneur Garden 27: STAFF Infection.


For the last several weeks, the National Football League has been embroiled in a contract dispute between the league’s front office and the referees’ union. I won’t get into that debate, but I do think that there is a valuable business lesson in the entire situation, and that is one of how the personnel that you put in place can affect the entire perception of your brand.

This is not the first time that the NFL brand has had an issue with its employees (contracted or otherwise). If we rewind back to about a year ago, players were just starting to get back into the swing of things after an abbreviated preseason due to a lockout and months of negotiations finally were settled. The difference between last year’s dispute with the players and the dispute this year with the referees is the value that the NFL has placed on these different groups of employees.

The truth is: the NFL understood that no one would attend games last season if the players were replaced with kindergarten teachers or grocery store clerks - which means that they were set to lose millions of dollars if the dispute wasn’t settled. BUT, they could afford to put in these substitute teachers of sorts to replace their normal group of referees and no one would even notice or care… ahem. Wrong. The NFL is saving a few dollars right now, but the injuries to their brand image may be more costly in the long run.

"The people around you affect your blessings."
-Pastor Ronald B. Johnson

As an entrepreneur, you have put in countless hours determining every single facet of your company. For most, developing a brand has never been just about delivering products or services, collecting checks, or freedom. It’s been about purpose. It’s been about vision. It’s been about taking all of the divine gifts that make up your DNA and finding a way to apply these to a business that others will benefit from. And there’s ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that you would allow a member of your staff to completely taint your dream in the eyes of your consumers.

This is what I see when I watch these replacement referees miss calls - I see a STAFF infection. Employees who are not connected to the vision of the organization, who have not invested the time in learning the rules of the game appropriate policies or procedures. In the case of the NFL, this means that incompetency and ignorance (i.e. late hits not being flagged…which could cause these unpenalized players to become more aggressive weekly which then becomes a player safety issue) that not only kills brand consistency but can ultimately hurt the entire image of the brand. 

Once you’ve grown to a point where you’re adding to your team, it is imperative that you find like minded individuals who will champion your brand. People who will attach themselves  to your vision and ultimately become extensions of you. For example, your assistant may be the first person that your customers come in contact with - but if she is unfriendly or clueless when it comes to scheduling your meetings - it reflects on you and your brand in a negative light. 

We’ve all had that experience where we’ve been at a particular restaurant or store and received “service” so bad that we vowed to never return, right? That one employee in that one store on the one day changed your perception of the entire brand for a lifetime. Hiring the right staff could mean life or death of your brand… For the NFL, one person deciding not to purchase tickets to another game is hardly a mosquito bite - for your brand, it could be an unflagged late hit that leads to a career ending injury.

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Tags: Branding